Hi there! Duolit is on hiatus, but please feel free to explore our extensive archive of posts and our free Weekend Book Marketing Makeover. Thanks for visiting!

7 Questions to Ask When Pricing Your Book

The $64,000 question: How much is my book worth?

Pricing is one of the most important decisions you will make as a self-published author. The right price can sell more books, earn you more reviews and (most importantly) cover your printing costs. However, asking yourself how much your book is worth is a subjective question to which there is no right or wrong answer. To an avid reader who loves independent authors, it may be worth $15, but to a more casual reader who hasn’t read many self-published books, it may only be worth $5.

Photo by darshonline

Of course, to you it’s worth a stack of gold bricks because you’ve poured your time, energy and talent into it, which is why it’s so important to get that number just right. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 7 important questions with concrete answers that can help you decide the right price for your book.

1: Who is your target market?

I know it seems like we harp on target markets a lot, but that’s because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT. If you’ve done your target market research before writing like we advise, now is the time to pull that research out again and use it to determine your book’s price. Teenagers, soccer moms and business professionals will value books at different prices, so it’s important to know which segment of the market you are trying to sell to.

2: How will you print your book?

Picking a printer is a crucial step to determining your price. Self-publishing means that you are responsible for paying the printing costs, so you want to be certain that your book price is going to cover that for you.

3: Where will you sell your book?

Most likely, you’ll want to sell your book online through some of the major retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Although there is a benefit of greater exposure with online booksellers, the downside is that your profit will be cut short as your book is picked up at wholesale cost and sold at a rate that is lower than what you set. You may also want to take into account that online sales (even on your own personal website) will involve shipping costs. Your customers will factor that into their purchase and you should, too.


Photo by nuffah

4: What are your marketing costs?

In addition to your printing costs, you’ll also want to take into account your marketing costs. This means of course that you’ll have to plan your marketing campaign out prior to publication (which we highly recommend anyway!). From website costs (domain name, hosting, design) to advertisements and free promotional copies of your book for reviewers, these are all costs that you have to pay for as a self-published author, which means you’ll want to earn them back through your book sales.

5. How many copies can you expect to sell?

This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re setting your book price. Obviously, you’re not going to recoup your investment in your book with one sale, but how many books can you expect to sell? When will you break even and start earning a real profit? On average, self-published books sell between 100 – 200 copies. If you have an existing following and a strong marketing campaign it’s possible to sell more, but for setting your costs you should divide them out over the sale of about 100 books to figure out your average cost per book. Anything sold over 100 copies then becomes additional profit for your pockets (or your next book).

6. How will you convince readers to pay the price?

No matter what price you set for your book, you will face an uphill battle in convincing readers to purchase a title from an unknown, self-published author. A professional website, great marketing and social media are crucial to selling yourself to potential readers. We also advise providing a lengthy sample of your book on your website (or Amazon.com if you’re selling your title there) so that readers can take a peek at your writing talent and be enticed to read more.

7. When can you change the price of your book?

If sales don’t go as expected after you release your book, it may be necessary for you to change your pricing strategy. Some printers will allow you to do this (sometimes for a cost, sometimes for free), but keep in mind that it might take some time for this pricing change to trickle down to your retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What about pricing eBooks?

You’re probably wondering how the above questions related to the pricing of your eBook, right? Well, we’re working on a mini eBook of our own that will provide more information on paperback pricing as well as eBook pricing. It seems to be an issue that comes up often within our network of self-published authors and we want to provide you with the best tips and advice possible.

Share your thoughts with us!

In addition to being authors, most of us are avid readers as well–so share with us your experiences from both sides of the book when it comes to pricing! We always love to hear from you, so voice your views in the comments or reach us on Twitter @duolit.

Good luck with your writing projects to those who celebrate it, may shamrocks and green beer abound for you on St. Patrick’s Day!

  • Hi Duolit. Interesting post – will be interested in your follow-up about pricing eBooks also. Think it’s important to price correctly, but also try to build a readership through blogging, sites, and social media – if people are more aware of you the chances are you may be able to charge a little more.

    Thanks – enjoyed the article.

    All the best


  • Hi, Ladies:

    I enjoyed this post as well. I have a couple of things I want to address…

    Many of the authors I speak with on a daily basis are confused about how their royalties are paid. I’m surprised to see there is no mention of the trade discount in this post as this is the primary factor to determining the royalty amount paid for each book sold. You mentioned that focusing on online sales can result in a lower royalty.

    In my experience (working for a self publishing company), online sales allows for greater royalties because you can set a lower trade discount — thus resulting in a higher wholesale price.

  • Great advice yet again! I will have to copy and paste these into a document and answer them as time goes by.

  • Good thoughts. I’m going through this now. I know CreateSpace gives you a minimum you can charge to also be included on Amazon so there’s that to consider too.

  • I think authors also need to consider just how good of a marketer and salesperson they are when deciding on a price. I’ve worked with a couple public speakers that have no problem selling out of their thin 45 page books for $29.95 each, simply because they have created perceived value in their products.

  • Thank you for providing this information. I am just about to struggle with the pricing dilemma. I am sad to see that I may sell so few books, but I did realize it would be a lot of work to make the book known.

    I’ll shoot for more…. lol. @kescah

  • Thanks for this informative post. I RT’d on Twitter because I liked it so much.

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I am a first time published author and have already covered my initial costs, which weren’t all that extensive due to an extremely talented family. But I want to increase readership, and feel that if I price my ebook at .99, I will gain greater exposure and therefore, higher sales for the second in the trilogy. Any thoughts on that? I am trying it anyway.

  • I struggle with pricing (and marketing). Great article. Thanks.

  • Great article! I’ve been contemplating pricing for my novel for awhile now. I think I’m going to sell for $4.99 as my demographic is 25-35 y/o women, on the timely subject of dating (in a never before seen format)which, at the very least, took at least three times as long to write as a linear novel. I’m also going to be spending money for professional editing and creative to make sure the customer gets the most professional product possible.

    Thanks for sharing these insights.

  • I saw the post on Twitter and I’m glad I stopped in to check it out. I’m interested in what you have to say about ebook pricing. The economy is so bad right now and has hit me and so many others I know so hard that money is super tight. I don’t like to pay more than $2.99 for an ebook, and $1.99 or 99 cents is more affordable for me. I know that if someone wants a book bad enough, they’ll fork out $9.99 or so, but that’s a lot for an ebook, which has little overhead for the publisher and is unreasonable.

  • If anyone needs help on doing a break-even analysis on a book they plan to have made and sold, please send me an e-mail or tweet. I is an accountant who writes novels. Shhhh. Not so loud.

    Am interested on pricing e-books on Amazon. It’s not an easy call.

    James Piper
    Author of The Protectors

    [email protected]
    Twitter: @JamesPiperCA

  • I’ll throw in my two cents on ebook prices. I don’t like seeing the 99¢ price point for ebook versions of novels, it strikes me as trivializing the amount of effort involved in creating that work. 99¢ picked up steam in music for individual songs, but a novel isn’t a song, it’s an album. Personally, I think somewhere around $4 – $8 is about right (depending on the author and the book itself), with 99¢ being a good price for shorter works, like novellas or novelettes. You wouldn’t expect a mediocre sandwich from a catering truck to cost a buck, why would it be okay to pay an author who brought you hours of enjoyment even less?

  • I have found that it can be a big mistake to price too low, but I only found this out by trial and error unfortunately. I started off pricing Alt Hist at $6.99 an issue (it’s a short story publication with an average of 6 stories per issue and 30,000 words in total), I then moved the price down to $2.99 thinking that this would increase the number of sales and readers, but this wasn’t the case at all. In fact when I moved the prices back up to $6.99 I found that I was getting more sales, but I think this was more due to the publication getting a wider awareness amongst its target market. At the end of the day, unless you’re selling cheap classic books, what matters most I think is the content, so I would suggest pricing at what you would pay for a professionally published book in the same genre – that might be cheaper for mass-market romances than literary fiction perhaps – but that’s a judgement for you to make.

    If you can afford to though it’s always worth testing the market to see what the best price point is.

  • Pingback: Ashly Lorenzana | Pre-Publication Checklist for Independent Authors()

  • Pingback: Wise, Ink. | The 11 Key Questions Every Indie Author Must Know about the Competition()